My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Kehinde always dreamt of being a dancer. But she soon realized that dancing is not an easy career to pursue in Nigeria, especially with bills to pay. So she settled for a career in sales. A couple of tokunbo (used cars) later and a stranger believing in her, she finally found her steps in advertising. Here is Kehinde Olorundare’s pivot journal.
How it started
I grew up wanting to be a poet, a journalist, and even a dancer. But I realized that all of these passions were pointing in the same direction: storytelling. So I studied theatre arts at Kogi State University. It was a wonderful experience. I enjoyed performing. I would go for auditions and nail some of the roles. However, I knew I never wanted to act professionally. And after school, acting auditions were what I got the most.
Then, the COVID pandemic happened and things got tough. I had to move back in with my parents in Akure and find a job. My brother told me about a sales representative/customer representative position at a car dealership, and I decided to take it. The pay was low, but I needed a job. I had no prior knowledge of cars, so I had to learn quickly. I had to take inventory of different cars and make it seem like I knew what I was doing. It was interesting, but it was also tough. I received a lot of curses from customers, especially when the cars were really bad. But I got good at it, and I learned how to be persuasive. I was there for four months before they moved me to their Lagos branch.
There my work doubled. I was also in charge of the company’s online services. On some days, I would be replying to a hundred different people at a time. I would from Monday to Saturday with little breaks. I was always on the go. But there were monetary benefits, so it wasn’t all bad. I did this for about a year before things changed. My bosses started cheating us. Some of us would only be paid half of our salary at the end of the month. Once, I was only paid 40 per cent of my salary. When I confronted my boss, he gave me flimsy excuses. I was fed up, so I quit.
After I quit my job at the car dealership, I had no backup plan other than my experience in sales and customer representation. I started applying for jobs in that capacity, sending out 6 – 10 applications daily. With my customer relations experience, I also applied for a front desk position at an ad agency. During the interview, the HR manager told me that I seemed too smart for the position. She then mentioned that there was an opening for a management trainee, and asked if I was interested. She said that I would need to take an exam because I had no background in marketing or mass communication, but she felt that I was capable of doing the job. However, the COO thought I would be better suited for the front desk position, so I resumed at the front desk.
Two days in, I knew the front desk wasn’t for me. I felt uneasy sitting in one place, and I wanted to sleep. I naturally like to move around, so it was a boring role for me. I would get up and ask the creatives and strategists if they needed help, and I got intrigued by what they were doing. I eventually met with the heads of the agency, and with the support of the HR manager and the HOD of brand management (who also believed I could be better suited in another role), I was allowed to fill the management trainee role. I had to help find a replacement for the front desk position, but after I did, I was given the role of management trainee.
I was excited to take on this new challenge. However, my first week was hard. It was funny because right before I was granted the opportunity to switch roles, the CEO had asked me if I could handle the role, I excitedly said yes, stating that I was a fast learner and I was going to surprise them. They wasted no time in giving me my first brief to work on. I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn. I would run to Google at every chance. I spent hours each day researching and reading articles about client, time, and people management, as well as strategy development. I studied strategy samples from previous projects, and my boss gave me some books on strategy to read, like Ogilvy on advertising. But it wasn’t easy. There was another management trainee. She had leverage because she studied mass communication. So, I found myself always playing catch-up. But I had become interested and money didn’t matter at that point. I just wanted to learn. For the first four months, I worked back-to-back. I didn’t have much time for myself, and at one point, I had to talk to a superior about the pressure I was facing. He told me that it was normal in the industry and that I had to power through it. And that is what I did. I focused on the joys of my job. I learned all I could, asked questions where I was stuck, and faked it till I made it.
How it’s going
I currently work full-time as a Brand Strategist/Account Executive for an advertising agency. I assist with managing accounts. I follow up with clients, budgets, and certificates; managing everything that concerns an account (brand) you are working on. My job role also includes client services and strategy. A typical day starts around 8:30 a.m. We work in a hybrid setting but on the days we go to the office, our mornings usually start with socializing for a bit, then it’s back-to-back meetings from 10 a.m to 3 p.m. It is a 9 – 5 job, but, sometimes, we have to stay at the office until 7 PM or even later, especially if there are urgent briefs to work on. Once, we had to stay overnight. Working on ads can be fun, but it’s hard work. If the client needs something done by a deadline, we have to do it, even if it means working long hours. But that’s also one of the things I love about my job. It’s challenging yet it forces me to think outside the box.
Another good thing about advertising is that it challenges you in a way that most agencies and industries do not. There is a very high level of creativity involved. It’s not like working for one company. I can handle seven accounts at the same time, which means drawing ideas from every industry. I work on everything from hospitality to drinks. The drink could either be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, which requires different creative approaches. So, we’re constantly working on different things at the same time. But it makes our knowledge vast and requires us to be very fast learners because we have to think on our feet. Working in the advertising industry has also taught me how to work under pressure and manage multiple priorities.
Having fun helps get the work done. Don’t think too deeply about anything that you are doing. Try to have fun with your work. When you let the stress weigh you down, it could affect your work. Because advertising work is mental work. There is a lot of stress and pressure in the industry. Viewing your work as fun helps ease that pressure.